I found a book!
I got this book a few years ago at RMWF after helping work at the Horse Country Magazine booth. I never really looked at it until today, when I was feeling inspired to do more than just hack around. Flipping through I found a lot of exercises, starting with just poles on the ground, to grid work, to more challenging things such as introducing bank jumps and fixing common problems (running out included). So, I picked an exercise and set off across the yard to set up my jumps and poles and then headed out to get my horse who was loving all the grass outside, but not loving the bugs.
Willard is still the outsider here at home. The other three horses we have keep him atleast 10 feet away from them in the big pasture. They must be jealous of his mad skills. Or just scared of how big he is. Both?
Anyway, back to the point. The exercise I picked for today’s ride was “The Partially Elevated Trot Grid”. A very simple exercise consisting of four trot poles, each one elevated on one side. I started out with just basic trot poles, and actually didn’t get around to the exercise until 40 minutes into the ride as I had to get Will’s focus back on me and not on how high his head to get in the air looking for the other horses. My refocusing strategy today was very blunt. Since all Will wanted to do was prance around like a fool and over collect his neck, I decided that if he wanted to show off his energy I was going to use up some energy. So, we did laps. This gave me a great chance to work on my two point and keeping my upper body back and leg steady as we galloped for a good 15-20 minutes. After a few laps each way, I began asking him to do small collected canter circles on the short ends, and lengthen again on the long sides. Then I did serpentines with flying changes up and down the ring, then did some canter-halt-canter transitions, and then, when Will was finally ready to break to a trot, I did some more lengthen and shortening work around the whole ring. After this extensive refocusing/energy ridding warm up, he was much more compliant to what I wanted to do and much less worried about where his “friends” were.
This is the point where I started working the exercise. The benefits of this exercise are, that by raising the alternate ends of the poles, a definite straight line to ride straight through the centre of the grid is defined. This allows you to concentrate and establish your calmness, balance, and rhythm before moving on to other exercise. It also gives your horse a chance (if they meet the first elevated pole on an off-stride) to figure out how to adjust their step to stop over the poles cleanly.
The first few times I went over the grid, Will banged his way through, slightly surprised at the newly raised poles. But, after a few times through (going away from the gate) he was stepping neatly over each pole. Then I switched directions and started coming home. This changed the scenario a bit. Will was now refocusing on where the other ponies were and not really seeing the grid ahead of him. So, after a few times of him rushing through and not paying attention, I added in tight turns, or stops, or walk transitions, to get him concentrating on mea gain. Horses are sometimes like boys (ages 8-19) who have a gameboy in their hands. You have to do something dramatic to get their attention. Throw a loop into their plans every once in a while.
I used the grid as part of a circle, getting Will to bend around my leg and coming to the centre of the pole off the curve of the circle. This got him listening in no time, and I was able to end with him in a gorgeous frame and calmly chewing the bit and licking his lips. Finally. I got through to him.